Wine with Caroline Byrne (2011)

MARCH 2011

Great Whites

In this month’s recipes we have the delicate and classic combination of leeks and fish, both of which ingredients have an innate sweetness as well as savoury flavours and light texture. It is for this reason that white wine is often seen as the perfect partner, as many styles have all the elements required to perfectly compliment such delicate qualities.

Coincidentally, this month I’ve been tasting my way through some very nice whites in a range of styles and price points, and so have several recommendations which will offer something for most tastes and budgets. At the highest end, Domaine Carillon Chassagne-Montrachet 2007 (€50) is a chardonnay with class. Slightly toasty on the nose and racey on the palate, evolving as you drink into a rounder wine with lemon citrus and nut flavours and a mineral streak that lasts through the finish. The 2008 Puligny-Montrachet from the same producer offers similar characters, perhaps with slightly more forward fruit and generally better integration of flavours. Both are worth the money though.

The Carillons are definitely in the ‘indulgence’ category, however, so I’ve nominated the Hunter’s Estate Chardonnay 2008 which retails for approx €15 at good outlets. Very different in style, with more tropical fruit character, but elegant nonetheless, and has nicely balanced acidity and good length. Others to look out for of this weight include The Lane ‘Gathering’ Sauvignon-Semillon 2007 from Adelaide Hills (lovely flinty character, ripe lime fruit and grassy notes), and especially Domaine Quiot Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2007 (which has some juicy mouth-filling fruit, floral and spice character).

The second wine I’ve featured is the Herdade dos Grous Alentejo White 2009 which retails for around €15 in good wine shops. It’s a blend of arinto, roupeiro and antao vaz, giving a fresh wine with sharp apple and stone fruit, some mineral flavours and a hint of spice. Perfect for fish.

If it floats your boat, others of similar weight you might like include Tindall Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (lots of classic NZ fruit and mouth-watering acidity without overdoing it), Pazo Barrantes Albariño 2009 (with ripe apple and apricot fruit up front and a dry citrussy finish), MAN Vintner Chenin Blanc 2010 (fresh and herbaceous with good length), Villa Bizzarri Primocerchio Pecorino Abruzzo 2009 (slightly saline on attack rounded out by tropical and citrus fruit), Monte Schiavo Ruviano Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi 2009 (an almost creamy texture balanced by fresh citrussy acidity) and Gavi DOCG Lancellotta 2009 (fresh and clean with pear on the finish).

I haven’t even touched on Alsacian, Austrian and German whites, but that’s a column all by itself. Stay tuned!


The Big Red

A hearty braised beef dish just cries out for a delicious robust red and with a wide range of varieties and styles from across the old and new world, there’s plenty to choose from – it’s a red wine lover’s dream.

Chile is king of value for money wine and Terra Andina is a terrific example of this price-quality ratio. The winery does a decent Carmenère Reserva for about €8 but my money would definitely be on its Altos Carmenère-Carignan (€16, independents) with its rich cherry, blueberry and blackberry flavours and characteristic touch of pomegranate.

For some, Australia is the region of choice, of course, for its powerful cabernet and shiraz. Yalumba Y Series Cabernet Sauvignon (around €10, supermarkets) has juicy red and black fruit and decent concentration for the money, but pricier Jim Barry ‘The Cover Drive’ (around €18, independents) is a cabernet that’s clean on the palate, with fresh, succulent black berry flavours, leather and a hint of savouriness. Jim Barry ‘The McRae Wood’ Shiraz (€36, independents) is simply massive, with damson and red berry, black fruit, tobacco and spice – and over 15% ABV!

Portugal is finally getting more widespread recognition for its terrific wines, which are often blends using its traditional Port grapes touriga nacional, tinta roriz, tinta barroca and touriga franca, and noted for their juicy dark fruit character and oaky flavours. A fine example is Castelinho Douro Reserva (around €12, supermarkets), which is ripe and long with smooth tannins. We’re better acquainted with the wines of Spain and Italy, though we tend to stick to the usual suspects, unlike Allegrini’s Palazzo della Torre (around €22, Fallon & Byrne), made from a blend of corvina veronese, rondinella and sangiovese, using the ‘ripasso’ technique: mouth-filling ripe berries and raisins, and good balancing acidity make it a beauty and a great value wine under €30.

For me though, France is the master of red. I’ve mentioned a few lovelies in this column in the past – including the great value Père Anselme Reserve de l'Aube Syrah-Merlot (€10, Corkscrew) – but when it comes to beef, that has to mean malbec. In September I mentioned Château du Cèdre’s ‘GC’ 2007 (€74.65, Le Caveau) which is nothing short of stunning. This month I’m highlighting its ‘Heritage’ wine (pictured), which not only has all the classic hallmarks of the Cahors region, as well as the elegance of Château du Cèdre, it’s also incredible value at around €14 (Le Caveau, Fallon & Byrne, independents). Slightly savoury with leather, red and dark berries and cleanly balanced acidity and tannin. Enjoy!

For afters…

There’s still call after Christmas for a little indulgence, especially with desserts like that sticky toffee pudding, and sweet and fortified wines are the perfect crime. If you can get it, Gonzalez Byass Matusalem Sweet Oloroso and Noe Pedro Ximenez sherries are unctuous and complex, and totally worth spending the few (well, considerable) quid. Failing that however, Hidalgo Pedro Ximenez (€23, Celtic Whiskey Shop) will do the job admirably. Or you could try HM Borges 5 Year Old Sweet Madeira (€16, Oddbins) for something nutty with caramel flavours and good acidity. Not bad value at all.